Tom McKiver/The Mirror

Taryn Johnson’s family has something to be proud of, and they’ll never forget it.  The senior forward recently became only the 25th player in the 37-year history of the Fairfield University Women’s Basketball program to reach the 1,000-point club.

“It is very exciting.  It’s an honor especially here at Fairfield to be amongst the [24] people before me – that’s really special,” said Johnson.

Initially it did not look like Taryn Johnson, or “TJ” as her teammates would call her, would ever climb to the top of the 1,000-point plateau.  In fact, during her first season she averaged less than 10 minutes per game and tallied only a total of 88 points.

“Freshman year I didn’t play much, so that was unreachable,” said Johnson.  “I just wanted to come out and produce and do what I’m good at to help my team win and that just so happened to have happened.”

When she first arrived at Fairfield, Johnson was playing behind star forwards such as Beandu Lowenthal and Stephanie Geehan (both of whom are also members of the 1,000 point club).  With the competition at her position being so intense, she decided to learn from the starters in hopes that one day she will become just as successful at her game.

That mindset impressed her head coach, Joe Frager, who realized that she was making impressive strides and improvements as a competitor.

“That’s what players have to do. You study other very talented players and you take what works for you…this year she’s emulated the type of focus Stephanie [Geehan] had her senior year and the type of leadership by example that Steph gave to us,” said Frager.

When those players graduated, Johnson began to fill a bigger role for the Stags, using the drive and talent that she has always had.  Even at Brockton High School in Massachusetts, where she was named the 2007 Brockton Enterprise Player of the Year, Coach Joe Frager saw how gifted Johnson was as an athlete.

“I just remember her just jumping out of the gym rebounding the ball,” said Frager. “We’ve had a lot of success coaching forwards and having good numbers and we wanted to bring one of those in, and we got that with Taryn.”

At that time, Frager was looking for his first full recruiting class as the head coach of the Stags.  He was searching for individual pieces to assemble a cohesive unit that would work together to create a unique bond, and one day build a special program.  In other words: a family.

“The coaching staff came to my home… sat on my couch…with me, it was like going from one family to another family here, I felt that here,” said Johnson, passionately reflecting back.

With this family structure that has been created in the Women’s Basketball program, Johnson’s role has transformed to that of an older sister.  Being a senior, she has to lead the younger players that are just starting their careers, whether be in games or even during practice.

“She takes no plays off anymore.  She goes hard every single time,” said Coach Frager. “When she’s off the court she’s always got an arm around a teammate talking to a younger player…that’s what leadership is.”

One of her best friends on the team, fellow senior Desiree Pina, has also noticed a change in Johnson’s leadership ability.

“It went literally from like night and day…Taryn just developed into a leader and [also] just such a good player and it’s great to have her on our team,” said Pina.

Both the family that raised her growing up and her basketball family have just one more thing to be proud of for TJ.  It’s that special connection that motivates her.

“I just want to make my family proud when they come to the games and hopefully [I can] go on and do something professionally and help my family,” said Johnson.

Well now every time her family goes to a game at Alumni Hall they can look up and see Johnson’s name stitched on the 1,000-point banner and be reminded just how proud they are.

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